Arts & Craft

Shown is a violin part from the score of Mark Rheaume's "Entrance Fanfare," composed to welcome new ISO director Ken Lam to the podium for the season openers Friday and Saturday.

For The Pantagraph

Not too shabby, seeing your name in a symphony concert program, sharing ink with Tchaikovsky and Bartok.

Especially if you're a composer about to witness his work being performed by a full orchestra for the first time.

Lucky Mark Rheaume, then.

It began when Rheaume was inspired to greet the Illinois Symphony Orchestra's new music director with a specially composed fanfare.

"Entrance Fanfare," to be precise: a three-minute musical welcome party for Ken Lam as he makes his debut this coming weekend (Friday in Bloomington, Saturday in Springfield, with, yes, some Bartok and Tchaikovsky, too).

"I'm very excited," said Lam, then still several weeks away from hearing the full orchestra bring it to life.

By day, Rheaume is the ISO's librarian, without whom the ISO couldn't function.

He's the guy keeping track of the music in all its permutations: from ordering it for delivery or retrieving it from the ISO's own deep-down archives (laden with scores stretching as far back as the 1930s).

He's also the guy making the hundreds of copies of hundreds of parts for each of the pieces the dozens of symphony players must have from concert to concert.

And he's on standby during every rehearsal of every concert to revise/annotate those same player parts in the events of last-minute cuts or changes.

The more-than-fringe benefits: "I get to sit in all the rehearsals and enjoy many hours of music. I get to know it very well."

The O'Fallon native and 2015 Eastern Illinois University grad has a master's degree in composition, hence his move from copying and archiving notes to positioning them to the beat of his own muse.

 "I'm a composer at heart," he says, a sentiment that doesn't always pay the bills.

Hence, his day job. "And it's a great job ... I'm experiencing the music constantly, literally 24/7."

The fanfare "was my idea," Rheaume says, the seeds planted when he witnessed Lam in the former corporate lawyer's first time at the podium during last year's "tryout season."

"I loved the pieces he picked, and I thought it would be great to write a piece for a conductor like that ... he's so agile, graceful and economical ... watching him in rehearsal his mastery was apparent, a real pleasure to work with. I wanted to write something for him as my gift."

Instead of trying to compose four fanfares for the four candidates, Rheaume acted on instinct that Lam was the odds-on favorite.

"I put all my eggs in one basket," he admits, "taking little quotes from pieces he performed in his two tryout concerts" and stringing them over an original melody line, which opens the fanfare via oboe.

Among the composers quoted are Beethoven, Hindemith, Stravinsky, Telemann, Sibelius, Copland, Mozart, Dvorak and Saint-Saens.

In his official program note, Rheaume says "this quick gesture for orchestra celebrates new horizons and a treasured past," imbuing the opening volley of the ISO's 25th season "with promises of reverence towards the past and a bright future to come."

The week in arts

  • Orchestral maneuvers: The rare occasion when we don't have to travel all the way north to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is here. The CSO, under the direction of James Gaffigan (not to be confused with that other Jim Gaffigan headed to the Grossinger Motors Arena here in December), performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the U of I Krannert Center in Urbana. Violinist James Ehnes solos on Barber's "Violin Concerto" and Leonard Bernstein's centenary is celebrated with "Symphonic Suite" from "On the Waterfront." 
  • Seniors' class: The Young at Heartland senior acting troupe from Heartland Theatre Company are showing their agelessness with two public performances, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on the One Normal Plaza stage (admission by donation) and at 2 p.m. Friday in the Normal Public Library (free).
  • Gallery hopping: Two exhibits were unveiled over the weekend in ISU's University Galleries, continuing through semester's end (Dec. 17). "Diana Frid: It Takes Time, Selected Works From 2009 to 2017" showcases her graphite and embroidery works, while "Erin Washington: Light Touch" presents the artist's collages, paintings, drawings and sculptures. Frid leads two gallery talks, at noon Tuesday and Nov. 4; Washington lectures at noon Nov. 8.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com 

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